Read It Again, Sam
Reading the Bible has been a very important part of my life for half a century. Having turned away from my previous lifestyle to accept Jesus forgiveness and healing of my inner man (heart, mind — however one chooses to look at it), reading the Bible in a new light has given me a new direction in my life and a broader understanding which I never had before. As I find something wrong with either my direction or my understanding, I talk to Him about it, and He helps change me by the gentle power of His Spirit. Fantastical claim, I know, but I am not delusional. Just because my life is continuing to change, I haven’t lost my senses. Though I am far from perfected, my condition still needs to improve, my learning needs to continue, but sharing what I am learning is quite enjoyable for me.
Now, when we read the Bible, people will say there are many contradictions in it. However, the Bible does not contradict itself. People do. That is, our interpretations or our understanding of Scriptures are the contrary element, the conflicting, confusing aspect. Modern translations with cross references help minimize this problem — the cross references in the margins direct the reader to other scriptures that say the same thing in a slightly different way so perhaps we can see it more clearly.
For example, ever since childhood, I was taught the story of Adam and Eve. As I said, I’ve been studying the Bible for fifty years, but keep on discovering aspects new to me. Not claiming to be a Bible scholar, just a student learner, I enjoy finding these little gems, putting pieces of the puzzle together, revealing small pictures within the whole of the grand masterpiece.
Recently, for example, I read Genesis for the umpteenth time, but for the first time, I read that Adam and Eve were not the very first humans. However, they were the very first persons who God separated out for His own particular purposes. The first chapter in Genesis states that God created the entire universe, the Earth, and everything in them. Also, God created Mankind — the original language is quite specific about that — and afterward God made the Garden, created Adam and Eve to tend to it, to protect it, to enjoy it, and to walk with God in it “in the cool of the evening.”
Now, this does not have any detrimental ramifications on God’s plans or His ultimate intentions for us. It does not conflict but rather, affirms how God has gone about fulfilling His plans. Look at it for what it is. It is an enhancing and confirming element to the Bible story, an affirmation through people of His intent for our salvation, of restoring fellowship with Him in a new Creation.
God created the world, and set it into motion with all its dynamics, and it continues to operate as He intended from the very first light. What this revelation shows me is the general pattern God uses throughout the Bible record: He sets apart a person, a family, a tribe, even a nation (Israel) for His own purposes and in revealing Himself and His plan for us. This methodology continues throughout Bible history to this very day.
God knows what He is doing. He knows how things work. He created everything. He knows what people are like. He knows the human condition. He knows our fallen state. He knows our needs. He knows our shortcomings. He knows how to correct and how to keep us safe. He knows what we need to know and to understand what we need to understand. He also knows people need to turn to Him. His plea to us is Ask Me. Seek Me. Knock on My door, I’ll let you in. He knows how to save us from ourselves. Jesus lamented, “…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37, NIV)
Often we are stuck in the status quo. Comfortable where we are, we lack the desire and see no reason to change. There are a couple different occasions in the Gospel record where Jesus literally “rocks the boat” of his disciples, challenging their growing faith and shredding the remnants of their cynicism about Him. Certainly, we could use a little shaking up ourselves to arouse us from our contented stupor. “This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14, NIV)